By Jenna Somers
Reports of COVID-19 deaths do not often provide a full explanation of patterns, tending to focus on people’s race or ethnicity, where they lived and with whom, whether they were affluent or poor, elderly or young, women or men—one factor at a time.
According to Derek Griffith, professor of medicine, health and society and founding director of the Center for Research on Men’s Health, such information may more accurately indicate risk for contracting and dying from COVID-19 than how people behave. But it is not enough to examine the impacts of the virus exclusively by race, place, age, sex or gender. Guided by CRMH’s core tenets and the strategic mission of the Office of the Vice Provost for Research, Griffith takes an intersectional approach to researching the impacts of COVID-19, advocating for a more nuanced understanding of identity’s role in determining risk to enhance policy reforms toward greater health equity.
“When we rely on intersectionality to study COVID-19 deaths around the world, we know that women bear greater social and economic burdens from the virus and that lower socioeconomic status and densely populated areas create an increased risk, but we also know that in almost every country, men are experiencing more severe cases and dying at considerably higher rates than women,” Griffith said. “When factoring in marginalized and minority backgrounds, severity and mortality among men are even higher. People can be equally vigilant about protecting themselves, but, because of structural factors outside of their control, the impact on them may not be equal.”
In a recent article published in the International Journal of Men’s Social and Community Health, Griffith and his colleagues find that even though men and women contract COVID-19 at equal rates, men account for 58 percent of deaths from the virus and double the amount of female deaths in confirmed COVID-19 cases. The impact becomes even more severe among racially and ethnically marginalized groups of men. For instance, in England and Wales, Black men are 4.2 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than white men, and similar evidence in racial disparities continues to emerge in the U.S. and other countries. The authors caution that the severity of cases among marginalized men should not be viewed as evidence of biological or behavioral differences, but that they should be considered through an intersectional framing that accounts for various structural risk factors, such as socioeconomic status, geography, disability and sexuality, along with racism.
“Historically, academic and public discourses have lacked a comprehensive understanding of men’s health,” Griffith said. “But emerging evidence can and should be used by decision-makers to inform public health strategies and health promotion during the COVID-19 pandemic and to plan for future ones. Men are not a homogenous group, and policies that…